Scratching the Surface

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When it comes to technology, Hotel 1000 takes the “checking out” process quite seriously. The three-year-old Seattle facility has installed in its 120 guest rooms and 47 luxury residences some accommodations you might not expect: a fully converged Internet Protocol–infrastructure Vocera Communication System; electronic doorbells; 40-inch high-definition LCD televisions; media hubs; electronic privacy shades and do-not-disturb buttons; and a two-line, color-screen Voice over Internet Protocol phone.

Matt Hagerman, the hotel’s manager, says the leading edge of technology is precisely where Hotel 1000 has to be—that’s its calling card, after all. “We have a very strong information technology infrastructure,” he says. “It’s not in-your-face technology, though. It’s technology-enabled service. That’s our brand statement—where we try and position ourselves as being unique.”

As part of an intensive due diligence, the hotel looked into surface computing and what the technology could do to further its brand positioning. (For more on the technology itself, see the feature “5 for ’10.") Being in close proximity to a certain Redmond, Wash.–based software giant didn’t hurt, either. “We’re in Microsoft territory,” Hagerman says, adding that he and his management team liked what they saw. “We wanted to explore what is available today and be on the forefront on where it is going tomorrow. For us, going with surface computing was a no-brainer.”

Hagerman recalls meeting approximately a year ago with the Microsoft Surface team and IdentityMine, a customizer of software and user interfaces, to see how Hotel 1000 could adapt surface computing to its unique needs. With a commercial sticker price of $12,500—and $15,000 for a developer-grade surface computer before customization—Hagerman and his team had high expectations for the investment. “We wanted to get in there and change things to reinforce our look, feel, and brand statement,” Hagerman says. 

That meant adding features: more than 100 points of interest for concierge purposes, a card reader for guests’ digital cameras, and a custom music selection. It also meant having interactive games such as chess and checkers. 

Furthering the brand experience is important to Hagerman, but not more important than cultivating quality guest relationships. “They can sit down at our Surface and find more relevant destinations using our customized tools,” he says. “Our goal as a small, luxury-branded hotel is to offer a customized, personalized experience with our guests. Surface—figuratively and literally—brings guests and staff to the same table.”  

A typical Hotel 1000 Surface interaction involves the mapping function. Hagerman says many first try to locate their own homes—and a concierge will come over to sit down. Not just to help them out with any questions they may have, but to have a genuine conversation. “We have our concierge sitting down, showing her house, and the customers may be heading to her area in a few months,” Hagerman says. “They’re having a real conversation. [It’s] invaluable for our hotel to be able to know our customers, because it’s fun—and we’re facilitating relationships that will keep our guests coming back.” 

Another common example involves a pair of guests playing chess while eating and drinking—with their plates on the computer itself. “It’s an old, sophisticated game,” Hagerman says, “but in a new medium, reinforcing our brand.”  

This isn’t all fun and games, though. Keeping everything up-to-date can be a challenge. “We need to constantly upkeep and manage the content,” he says. “It must keep growing if it’s to stay interesting.”

Hagerman says that the system’s popularity with guests is clear, but that it’s been difficult to put tangible statistics around that excitement. “What jumps out at me is the attraction it creates,” he says. “The ability to break down social barriers—having a couple from Germany and one from Seattle here for two different reasons sitting at the table and talking—is exactly what we want. The return on investment for Surface…is seeing and feeling the guest impact, knowing it’s a reinforcement of our brand.”

Hagerman says that surface computing may become a central hub for guests, which may help to streamline operations while extending the quality experience. “Centralizing info and continuing to make it user-friendly is what we must continue to strive for,” he explains, adding he’d like to see more interactive games and food-and-beverage applications. “We will continue to progress, but essentially, Surface is a new solution to an old-fashioned problem of ‘Let’s get people talking to each other.’”  

The Payoff

Since customizing a surface computer from Microsoft with IdentityMine, Hotel 1000:

  • is maintaining and expanding a database of more than 100 popular destinations in the Seattle area;
  • reinforces its brand promise of technology-enabled service; 
  • fosters relationships among guests; and
  • improves the guest experience by allowing guests to interact more intimately with employees.

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